Friday, 30 May 2014

Little Man Down

Ah  karaoke!  It's something that I will only be doing on holiday and won't be making a regular part of my routine.  Last year's debut was that proud gay anthem 'YMCA', a duet with Louis where I pretended that I was the cowboy in the Village People.  I followed it with  a dreadfully executed solo version of 'Say a Little Prayer'.  Aretha, I ain't!  This year's attempt was a little more successful.  One of the kids actually congratulated me for my rendition of Passenger's 'Let Her Go'.
Yesterday there was another session of this strange Japanese pastime scheduled and I spent the day contemplating whether I should be Adele, Michael Stipe or perhaps even Lana Del Ray when my turn came.  Still starstruck from his gang show experience Louis had already decided that he would do about eight songs. But it wasn't to be.  Whilst lounging with a book and cuppa outside the van, one of the gang of little boys that my son spends his days with came running up.  'Louis fell off his bike and hurt his knee.  It's really bad!'

No exaggeration, it wasn't good.  Deep gashes, lots of blood and little stones embedded in the cuts, the inevitable consequence of small boy hitting unsurfaced road after trying to corner too quickly.  So sadly no karaoke for us but a trip to a French hospital instead until after midnight for x-rays to check no bones were broken, a thorough gas and air assisted wound cleaning session  during which Louis hallucinated that he was in a video game, bandaging and a tetanus injection.  I expect in a week it will all be fine with only a kiddie battle scar left as evidence.  They're pretty much inevitable unless wrapping in cotton wool literally happens.  Mine was acquired from cracking my head open by falling down the back steps at our childhood home.

I was accompanied by one of the other parents who offered a lift in his car.  It was a relief as I didn't fancy circling  a large unknown town in a motorhome  looking for the medical facility.  'I hope someone would do the same for us if we needed it' explained Adrian when I said that staying was really beyond the call of duty and we'd get a taxi back to the campsite.   I hadn't expected to write about kindness again quite so quickly.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Not So Simples

Photo: Ashleigh Thomson
You know the other week I said that I would sell Oleg, the baby meerkat cuddly toy that I would have received from to offset the cost of car insurance.  Well I lied! It was a lovely novel idea but I didn't end up doing it in the end.  I thought I'd better 'fess up otherwise I might end up with a nose as long as Pinocchio's and we can't have that can we?

When I ran the figures through the site for a second time I realised I'd made an error the first time around and the premium came out about £30 higher. So, I decided to have a peep at other comparison sites to see if I could get a cheaper deal.  I found that buying a policy through Quidco, the cashback site, shaved the price back down to the original quote.  Granted I'll have to wait a little while for some of the discount but I would have done anyway.  As anyone whose bought insurance know, those meerkats take a long time to arrive!

So the moral of this story?  Simples!  Don't just go to one comparison site to find the cheapest product.  They don't all have the same deals.   Cute as those meerkats are, they're not always the savviest creatures on the block.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Back on My Bike

Since childhood I've  loved cycling.  In my teens my bike, a  red-brown three speed Raleigh Cameo with a pleasing curve in its frame like this one gave me the freedom that I yearned for.  I strayed miles from the family home around the Essex countryside.  Once, I came unstuck and got a puncture in the middle of nowhere.  My friend and I haled down a man in a car, begged 2p off him, for that was the price of a phone box call, and phoned home.  Due to the distance my parents took a long time to get me.  'Try and stay closer to Southend.' they cautioned.  I took heed and so circled the house of the boy that I had a crush on instead. No romantic good came of it!

Moving on in life I ditched the Raleigh, or rather it was nicked from the Exeter University bike sheds.  I treated myself to a posh hybrid but can't recall the name or make.  Perhaps that's a measure of that particular bike's sentimental worth to me.   It was though my main form of transport around Exeter whilst studying to be an occupational therapist in the late nineties.  There's a good network of cycle paths that took me between home, college and the accountancy firm where I used to complete tax returns in any spare hour to supplement my grant.   Even though I could drive by then  I reckon that the petrol tank had to be filled once every six weeks.

My current bike is my favourite.  Any enthusiast would tell you it's nothing special, a Giant bought from a hire shop at the end of the season.   I've shown it to you guys before. It's the most comfortable one that I've ever  been on though and has been customised with a distinctive green saddle and a Ortlieb handlebar bag, my equivalent of those baskets that other girlies have, but more practical and waterproof.  I hadn't been on it since September and in anticipation of riding it this holiday I decided to forego a DIY service and treat it to a trip to the bike shop.  The blokes there have done me proud and it rides like a dream.

And so I'm finally back in the saddle on this French holiday.  The inaugural trip was down to the nearest harbour to our campsite for beer and crepes.  Yesterday Lou and I set out on a bigger adventure, a round trip of widely varying gradients totaling about two and a half hours. And without the help of any of that fancy lycra clothing.  Okay there's a bit of the stuff to give my leggings stretch but they're mostly cotton!  I am proud to say that we got up this big hill above which started way before anything that you can see in the picture.  The journey from the port at Perros Guirec to this viewpoint overlooking a beach was done without a rest stop passing some serious cycling dudes having a rest, Ha!   Living proof that my surgeon has done a bloody good job on that knee and all the exercise bike action hasn't been in vain.   More rewards necessary.  Louis wanted another one of those crabs that he likes to attack with strange culinary instruments. As I was in celebratory mood his wish was my command!  

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

How the Book Buying Other Half Live

Something dreadful happened on the way to the ferry port on Friday morning.  I realised that I'd left the bag with books in for the holiday on the upstairs landing.  Aaaargh! Now it is an absolute impossibility for either me or Louis to live without reading material when we go away and there was nothing for it but to stump up the cash and buy a pile  from the rather good selection in the gift shop.

But my eyes watered at the till.  Forty odd quid for five paperbacks.  Yikes! I paid up and in doing so broke one of my 2014 spending rules.  I know other bookworms out there will take pity and see I had no choice.

It occurred to me though, that its been a long time that I've paid the full price for a book.  True there are some that I buy such as ones for crafting, cooking and work that aren't particularly cheap but I nearly always get them secondhand on Amazon Marketplace.  There must be super rich people out there though buying all those new books in the first place for me to snap up in a charity shop or the stall downstairs at the hospital where I work.  Have they got money to burn?

Monday, 26 May 2014

Dalai Lama and Date Tea

I was back in that spa again yesterday slurping down the free herb teas on offer.  Now you don't need to be a genius to work out which part of the body that a brew of rhubarb, figs and dates might act upon.  Let's hope that it counters all that white bread eating that  I'm doing at the moment!

It wasn't just my body that I was nourishing but my mind got a look in as well.  There's a little library to peruse whilst supping your cuppa and a glossy coffee table book about the Dalai Lama is my favourite sun lounger read.  Now I knew the bloke was a good'un but I hadn't quite appreciated the depth of his wisdom and how it might applicable to me.  Could I be one of the Western women whohe believes might be responsible for effecting change for good in the world?  Let's hope so.

The book is in French, a beautiful tongue which I read far better than I speak.  I surreptitiously photographed quotes from the book in its published language to use to illustrate today's post.   The first is one that suggests that I can indeed make a difference.  From what I understand, the Dalai Lama is saying here that world peace will come about through the efforts of individuals who are at peace with themselves.
Well, I'm working on that even though it may not always look as if I exude serenity so maybe my contribution will bounce its way into the cosmos and add to the whole.

The next quote is harder to enact. All this love and peace stuff is all very well when you're interacting with nice people but the Dalai Lama suggests that we should be trying to get along with those who we don't really want to gel with.  One's that I normally see as more deserving of a jab in the real or metaphorical nadders with a blunt instrrument for example.  'Try to see the best in others so that you can view them in the best light possible.  This immediately creates the sentiment of affinity, a predisposition to establish a link'  he says. Mmm. That's difficult teaching which really gives me something to chew on.

The Dalai Lama sees kindness  as the essential quality that we need to foster and that's the essence of the final quote that I've shown here.  I try to exercise this on a daily basis but a more overt appreciation of their power isn't such a bad thing.  It seems that striving to be conciously compassionate might have to be added to my quest for gratefulness.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Stewing in the Spa

As a  holiday treat I've blocked booked myself into the campsite spa, a haven of child-free peace - unless that is a group of young French girls have decided to visit at the same time.  What is it with some people?   I know that I'm a right chatterbox and not normally known for being the quietest creature on the planet. Some spaces, places of worship, wellbeing or healing though  exude tranquility.  There, I have a deep sense that being as quiet and unobtrusive as possible is the proper way to behave to preserve the atmosphere.  Inane wittering and giggling seems so inappropriate.  Rant over!  I didn't let the hen party spoil the first of my visits as I managed to make sure that I stayed well away from them.

If money were less of an object I'd probably have a few of the treatments on offer.  I've only ever had a massage once at Thermae at Bath.  There I donned a pair of paper knickers and a man called Brad rubbed me with gorgeously smelly oils.  Now I couldn't even make that up if I tried!  Blankets were, of course, involved to preserve my modesty but I've left them out of my preliminary description for comedic effect!  Anyway this description from the brochure of the spa here made me giggle as well.  I think it may be a translation error but  it's almost worth the 70 Euros to see if those herby dumplings are made out of Atora suet.  If so, could be recycled into a stew post treatment?

Saturday, 24 May 2014

One Parent: Will Travel

Howdy there!  Just to check that my post op driving activity is well and truly reinstated I've taken the motorhome out for a spin and Louis and I have ended up in France earlier than most families as there was a non teaching day yesterday.  Yay!  Being an occupational therapist, I know all about activity being at the appropriate level for the person concerned.  Bearing that in mind we're not  on some massive road trip, like last year's journey between Santander and Roscoff.   I don't think my knee would like hour after hour of relentless driving yet. I also fancy catching up with friends in the USA next year so I've been tightening the belt as regards holiday spending in 2014. That doesn't mean I've forgoing any trips away.  My wanderlust is way too strong for that. It just means I'm having to be a little more creative with those pennies.

We're back at Perros Guirec with all its wonderful pink granite rock formations at the all singing and dancing campsite we visited last year.  Le Ranolien, a Yelloh Village resort comes entirely recommended if you have kids.  It's  just an hour or so from Roscoff ferry port so takes less than half a tank of expensive diesel to get there and back.  Here we'll stay for an entire week using our feet, cycles and possibly the odd bus to get around.  How blooming sensible is that?

I feel a thrifty tip coming on that I think I've mentioned before but it's so good that it's worth reiterating.  This holiday isn't costing me a small fortune and it's down to the differences between French and UK school holidays.  Our continental cousins don't have a Whitsun break so prices are set at  low season rates.  My hedged pitch on a site in a prime location next to the sea has electric hook up and its own water supply.  The total cost is just 150 Euros for eight nights. That includes entertainment, super duper swimming pools and a free kids club, a real bargain when you compare it to similar UK sites.   Savings can  be had at the end of August when French kids are back at school. I also shave pounds and pounds off my costs by choosing my ferry crossings carefully.  Even at peak times some sailings are cheaper than others.

Of course if I were a shy and retiring wallflower, something that I've never personally been described as, being a single parent on holiday could be a bit lonely.  Thankfully, I've found the experience to be entirely the reverse. If I want some grown up interaction I do have to be proactive though. So last night, I went on over to the bar with Louis for casino night, brushed up my language skills playing Blackjack with a bunch of French people and then sat at the bar chatting  to reps who manage chalets here about their nomadic lifestyles.  I recognised one from last year as her office was behind our van so re-acquainted myself, struck up conversation and got talking to a whole bunch of other people that she introduced me too. Ch ching, talk with adults! Louis will no doubt make more friends once  British and Irish people arrive for their half term break tomorrow, It will be a very unusual holiday if I don't end up drinking wine at another parent's pitch and reciprocating the invitation.  Conversation with other mums often involves moans about the husband they've brought with them so maybe my deal isn't too bad after all!

I'm hoping that this post might be the inspiration for another Mum or Dad to take children away without another adult for moral support.  It doesn't have to break the bank or be a solitary experience.  Go on!  There's a big wide world out there waiting for you and your kids to explore it!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Gorgeous Girlie Voices for a Gorgeous Green Car

Some people who know just a titchy witchy bit about me might think that all my musical interludes are spent listening to Leonard Cohen with his gift of a golden voice. Not so! For although I love Leonard dearly he sometimes takes a back seat to other artists.  He's still welcome to come to tea anytime he fancies even though cosmic ordering oddly only seems to work for Noel Edmonds and not me!  My mood at the moment seems to favour lilting rather than gravelly.  So I thought that I'd share  two of the songs of women that are accompanying me on my inaugural journeys in my tiny bright green car. First off is Karen Peris of the Innocence Mission whose voice is so unusual and beautiful. I think that if I had three wishes at the moment one of them could be the ability to sing like her.  Spotify  recently discovered this band for me based on my other musical preferences and blow me if it wasn't, well spot on.  I've been playing this incredible song  from the 'Befriended' album even more than the other excellent tracks.  The lyrics are probably deep and meaningful but blow me if I can work them out.


And just to curb a habit of  obsessively listening to just one artist over and over I've been ringing the changes with an album that takes me way back to my university days.  Then I favoured lots of eyeliner, dressed in black and contemplated my navel rather too much. What was I thinking? Someone should have come along and given me a poke with a rather sharp stick and told me to perk up.  Anyway, 'Treasure' by the Cocteau Twins was far more upbeat than a lot of the indie stuff that they played at the Timepiece in Exeter, a hangout for other angst ridden melancholic youths.  The atmospheric vocals of Elizabeth Fraser have stood the test of time.  And for all you clever clogs, I challenge you to ascribe meaning to the words here!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

More Grateful Clouds and Personal Thanks

Over the last few days there has been a real sea change.  When I walk I've just realised that I'm not conscious anymore of every step that I take, wondering whether my knee is going to be painful or, horror of horrors, cause me to collapse on my back in an undignified heap. Waves of anxiety that have been with me over the last months have suddenly gone away.  For the first time in quite a few years where I've struggled with illness I feel that I've got to the stage where I'm totally healthy in mind and body.  It's not just my imagination.  Others have noticed and commented on how well I look. Yes!  It's been a long time coming.  To celebrate the start of a new phase of my life where all sorts of new possibilities seem open to me I went for rather a long yomp yesterday on Dartmoor. There I experienced heartfelt gratitude by looking again at those wondrous cloud formations that pass over the landscape.

This is quite a similar selfie to one that I took a couple of months ago. Then I'd struggled to hobble just a few hundred yards from the car, dependent on a leg brace and crutch with the parking area still in sight.   The outcrops in the background here are a fair distance away from the road and to reach my viewpoint I tackled quite a substantial gradient with ease.  No wonder I'm looking pleased.

My time off work where my mobility has been restricted has taught me quite a lot about myself.    I used to think that I was about the most self sufficient person on the planet.  Even though I'm an extremely sociable little bunny I normally love my own company.  Enforced time at home without daily contact with others has made me realise that I can get lonely if I'm cooped up. It's a state of affairs that I think must be all too common for many. When I was in London I saw an Age UK poster that highlighted the extent of  loneliness experienced by over a million older people. Although phone calls and online chats are helpful they don't quite satisfy the need for human contact that came upon me when I was confined to my home.  Once I was allowed to drive again and regained my freedom that sense of isolation passed.  Being outdoors, even on my own gives me a sense of connection with the wider world and the loneliness passes. Best get out there while I can but think about what I might need as I get older and less able to satisfy my wanderlust.

So here's a view of Haytor that's the other side of the one that I can see from my house.   What I'd like to do now is offer thanks to everyone who've helped me through this difficult time in my life.  It's meant that I now can walk to the other side of the outcrop to take this picture!  You'll know who you are if you've given me the moral and practical support that's allowed me take the huge steps that I have over the last couple of months.  And the best bit is that they're now nigh on limp free!   I'm so appreciative of what everyone has done for me and wouldn't be in the position that I am today without y'all.  Maybe now I'm bright eyed and bushy tailed I'll be able to return the favours when they're needed. It will be a privilege.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Birthday Cheers for Mary Anning

Image: Google
My inner geek got really excited when she saw today's Google Doodle.  For it depicts one of my all time historical heroines, a bonnet clad, 19th century lady from coastal Dorset as today is her 215th birthday.  I'd be helping her blow out all those candles if she was still around.

Mary Anning was born and lived throughout her life in the town of Lyme Regis, one of my favourite places. It's situated on the stunning Jurassic Coast, a world heritage site. There the cliffs  are stuffed to the gunnels with fossils.  I used to go there as a child and hack bits of rock to death with a hammer and chisel in the hope of finding prehistoric treasure.  I first found out about Mary Anning, who became a palaeontologist to supplement family income, as her story was featured on Blue Peter.  It was included in the show's annual of that year.  And I gleaned more information about this lady's rather short life from an excellent Puffin book Mary Anning's Treasures which got rather dog eared as I re-read it many times.

She excised blooming great dinosaurs out of the cliff with her first important find at twelve years of age being a complete ichthyosaur skeleton and then went onto to dig out plesiosaurs and a pterosaur. I think that it was what I was dreaming of finding when I was a child following in her footsteps on my holiday.  Yes, I confess, as I chipped away I was pretending to be her in spite of wearing shorts and a T-shirt rather than a great big coat and black bonnet.  Her work though went beyond liberating fossils from the Blue Lias.  Even though her education was poor she had a real understanding of her subject matter gleaned from observations of what she'd found and from dissection.  Her knowledge seems to have been nicked by academic men of that time and many of her findings credited to these sneaky dudes.

In spite of discrimination against her because of poverty, her sex and her religious beliefs, Mary Anning made a substantial contribution to scientific thinking of the time about theories around extinction. Only after her lifetime did the importance of her work seem to be recognised culminating in her being named in 2010 by the Royal Society as the ten most important women in science.  Yay!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Sea, Sand and Litter Picking

Sunday was too beautiful to spend the whole day studying.  I am a woman who likes to achieve balance in her life after all.  All work, no play, Lovelygrey a dull girlie and all that!   So, I grabbed my breakfast, leapt in the car and headed off  to find somewhere pretty to eat it.  I ended up at Dawlish Warren beach.  Beautiful isn't it? It's so much nicer than the impression that you get when you arrive there.  Those 20th century developers had a field day and built a nasty collection of buildings and a funfair.  I'd knock it down tomorrow but don't own a whole heap of demolition gear.  All is not lost though.  If you head off to the left a quiet beach and nature reserve awaits. It's bliss.

Here's a picture to warm the cockles of a few of the hearts out there. I think that I found proof that some children still enjoy playing in old fashioned ways. There is hope that they might not all be spending their entire time with eyes glued to electronic gadgets.  Not that it would be a very good idea on a beach. Sand, water and a Nintendo 3DS really aren't a good mix.

Although I've done my fair share of dabbling with sand sculpture it isn't my favourite seaside activity.  That accolade has to go to beachcombing.  I love it, love it, love it.  There's nothing more pleasing than meandering along, humming to myself and finding treasure washed up from the waves.  The problem is that I've got rather a lot of stones and shells at home already.  I'm fully aware that I haven't even started the sea glass project that I thought I'd complete whilst off work.  Exercise though has taken precedence.  I will get there though I promise.

Only one piece of pleasingly aqua blue sea glass and a shell with silvery innards made their way into my pocket.  I did pick up a whole string bag full of rubbish though and took it home to recycle.  Unfortunately I had to leave a fair few bagfuls behind on the beach.

Call me a weirdo but I get tremendous joy from litter picking too. I'll often return from a walk with a crisp packet or two stuffed in my pocket, pleased that a landscape is a little less spoiled.  I was on a roll here. This was quite a heavy bagful which all sorts of bits and bobs.

Cleaning up is given such low status in our society but there is dignity to be found in restoring beauty and making small amends for humankind's carelessness. What I'd like to suggest is that if everyone who gives a damn just picks up a few bits of rubbish each time they're out on a walk then maybe our combined effort might make a real difference.

Monday, 19 May 2014


My skin  is usually trouble free and that's without adhering to any of that 'Cleanse, Tone, Moisturise' nonsense that beauty editors seem to think should be enshrined in the Ten Commandments. Perhaps it could replace coveting?  My own regime involves my face getting wet under the shower.  Then if it looks like it might be a hot day, I'll smear on some suntan lotion.  Sorted!

I don't think that I could be this lax if I lived in the Big Smoke.  Perhaps for those who live there  those stringent hygiene rules do apply after all.  For every time that I go to London my skin starts to get sore almost from the time when I hit the platform at Paddington station.  I'm certain it's down to air pollution as it's particularly bad on the Underground.  Call me paranoid but I'm pretty sure that I can see the dirt particles in the air propelling their way towards my face making it smart like hell.   Black snot is further evidence that I'm totally right about this!

And then I can guarantee it.  After a day or two at home I'll get a spot - or maybe two like this time.  It never happens when I confine myself to a rural life. Goodness knows how bad it would be if I lived up there.  I'd probably ended up looking like Fungus the Bogeyman's missus.  So I'm dowsing my face in industrial strength pore cleaner, dabbing myself liberally with antiseptic cream and thinking about how to prevent the problem re-occuring on future trips.  A burka perhaps?

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Living Better: Rethinking Rubbish

As I've been to the exhibition associated with the Design Awards at the Design Museum in London for two years in a row now I think that I might have established a personal tradition. There's a few posts to be gleaned from my rather fascinating visit and this, the first, gives me just the opportunity that I need to give an update on the latest Guardian Live Better Challenge to do with reducing and recycling waste that I started a couple of weeks ago.  It's been an eye opener.

The generations that come after us will be astonished by the lax attitude that we have to making products from our depleting petro-chemical resource that we just thoughtlessly throw away.  I think that I read that somewhere but I could have made it up.  My mind does sometimes play tricks on me. For instance,  I have rather unsettling memories of a naked early morning run through Exeter but it's 99% likely that this was a particularly vivid dream. Ye gods! Let's hope so.

Anway, moving on... these rather funky PET lampshades are one of the nominations in the show. These are so right on it's untrue being made from plastic bottles rescued from the Amazon by people displaced by guerilla warfare.  Isn't that better than letting them wash out to sea to form part of huge swirling gyres in the oceans or wash up on some otherwise idyllic beach somewhere? The neck of the bottle is the part where the light fitting goes whilst the main body is cut into strips and interwoven with natural materials.  And right on cue the Guardian has released a video giving other ideas of how to recycle bottles.  Follow the link here.

So what about my own efforts and that week long challenge to reduce my own rubbish?  It's given me food for thought which I'm putting into action. I tried to recycle those plastic food containers through my green bin system but the beady eyed rubbish collectors wouldn't take them.  A bit of research has shown me that there are recycling bins for my yoghurt pots and suchlike so they're now being sifted out of the black waste and will go there instead of the landfill site.  And I'm trying to be much more selective about buying over packaged food, opting out of buying it whenever I can.  These lovely tomatoes in their brown paper bag, for instance, came from our village shop.

This is a challenge that has made me feel a bit guilty about my lackadaisical approach to creating and disposing of rubbish.  I'm continuing on with thinking about how to reduce waste for much longer than the week suggested.  So I'm giving the lovely inspirational people from Live Better heartfelt thanks.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Not Broken Forever

I travel home from my London trip today where I've   made memories and taken photos. Here I've created my perfect balance of being alone in a crowd, free to do and think what I will and spending time with some of the friends and family who mean so much to me.  Once I've gathered my thoughts I''ll share more.

Today though I thought I'd share this image recently posted on Facebook, a representation of the hurt that many must feel.  It's so, so sad. The good news is that the damage can be repaired!  I''ll try to show you what I mean.

I've had a little trawl around the Internet and found this lovely mosaic by Anna Tilson.  It's just what I need.  Broken pieces don't have to stay fragmented.  They can be put back together in a different way and transformed into something just as beautiful and undoubtedly more resistant to future damage. It sends a powerful message to the people who had a part to play in causing the original damage too! Granted, the fix may not be easy but it really is a case of finding the right metaphorical grout that does the trick.

Friday, 16 May 2014

They're Having A Laugh

I've been given this final part of my sick leave in order to gradually make a return to driving.  I do a lot of it for my job.   Up to three or four hours daily around the back lanes of Devon so that phasing in of activity is very welcome.  The purpose of the extra time off was also so that I have the time to maintain a quite intensive exercise regime as part of my rehab. And now I am mobile I decided that I didn't need to restrict that to Devon.  I've been cooped up for too long, a state of affairs that nearly caused me to go stir crazy.  So I've brought myself up to London for a couple of days where I can walk miles and miles in an interesting urban environment that is way different to my usual rural haunts.  First stop yesterday was the South Bank, one of my favourite places in any city.  There's so much to see and do.  My day ended at Tate Modern. After all there's nothing that a philistine likes more than  a bit of modern art to induce more than a semblance of a chuckle.  I wasn't disappointed.  Here's a bathroom mirror.  But, I'll have you know that this isn't a common or garden one, No, it's 'The Bigger Picture' described as a work of genius where art and reality are one. Really?

I can't be a conplete art pleb because I knew what this one was.  It's 'Blue' by Derek Jarman, a 75 minute film where, you've guessed it, the screen is yep, blue.  Hardly gripping stuff.  Give me Édward Scissorhands' as a preference anyday.
This was the one that clinched the belly aching laugh of the day award. This is 'Square Tubes [Series D] by Charlotte Posenenske purchased, I'll have you know, with funds from the Knapping Fund.  Probably not short change then.  It is definitely not three pieces of air conditioning ducting popped in the gallery by accident as I first thought.  I tried to contain my guffaws as I was fully aware that a lone grey woman doubled up laughing could have looked, well a bit mad.  But then a man passing the work snorted and it set me off. There may have even been some tears!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Smallprint

Look who came to live outside Lovelygrey Cottage yesterday!  Yes, it's my handsome new Skoda Citigo Elegance that I hope will cut my motoring costs as well as looking  handsome in a lush green kind of way. I am so pigging chuffed.  He , for my car is a boy, feels way roomier than you would expect for a vehicle of this size and way nippier  than I thought possible with only 74bhp.
There's kit aplenty;  a Garmin system, fog lights, very decent air conditioning, cruise control and heated seats and mirrors. Of course I can't forget those rear parking sensors ordered as an extra. Even though the squint that I was born with was corrected  and I now have a level gaze, I'm still left with dreadful residual 3D vision and depth perception.   Bumps and scrapes whilst parking used to happen on a fairly regular basis but the reversing beeps have stopped all that. Perhaps I need something similar attached to my body as I'm always inadvertently bashing myself.

I was offered something called Gap insurance that, if I were to have an accident, pays out the difference between what I paid for the car and its value.  It seems like a good idea and I might buy some.  Not from Skoda though.  If you're in the market for a car, this insurance doesn't have to be bought from the person who sells you the car. The savings from going it alone seem to be substantial.  The dealership price was £399 compared to the £93 quote that I found with minimal internet searching.  No wonder flogging the policies was one of the sales targets on the whiteboard that I noticed when I was signing my finance paperwork.

Another one of the targets was for the sellling Autoglym lifeshine where protective coatings are added to keep the interior and exterior of the car tiptop and shiny. I went for this to see if it combats the dirt that falls off the body of a grubby, sticky eleven year old and adheres to upholstery.  A little bit of Internet research suggests that I might have been able to have got this cheaper than the £299  paid.  Isn't hindsight great!   There are suggestions too that dealerships don't always apply the stuff properly but I'll be back with a bee in my bonnet if there's a problem. What I am pleased with though is my enormous pack of cleaning products that came as part of the deal.  Sad though this is, it was almost as exciting as gettng the new car itself!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Lashy Update

Photo:  Donareisskoffer
'I know why she's posted a picture of a relative of Rod Hull's best mate.' some of you out there may be thinking. 'That's because that bloody expensive stuff which was meant to make her eyelashes look like those of a Jersey cow is a complete con !' Notice the rather fine barbless vestigial feathers that are just like hair directly about the eyes of another well endowed creature, this, the scariest of birdies.  You may have concluded that I'm drawing attention to these to steer the focus away from my pricey experiment that's been an abject failure.

But ha! you'd be wrong.  I'm sticking my thumb on my nose and waggling my fingers in a defiant gesture! After a month I've really and truly spotted discernible growth.  Honest!  The nubby problems is that it's just not a a level that anyone else would notice or that I could demonstrate by taking a photo.  There's no chance that I'm soon going to be mistaken for Liz Taylor, who due to a genetic mutation, had a double row of lush eyelashes framing her pretty peepers. No-one has yet said 'Wow Joo!  Whatever you've done to your eyes is bleedin' amazing!'  People are too preoccupied with whatever's going on in their own lives to notice and indeed I'll concede that there are more important fish to fry.

I could carry on and buy more of the gloopy stuff after my initial phial has  run out.  Perhaps a bit of persistence and investment might mean that others might spot the difference and eventually pander a bit to my vanity.  But do you know what? I can't be arsed.  Maybe I'm thinking that there are more meaningful things in life to spend £22 on!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Beyond Having A Dream

I'll remain uncharacteristically quiet today and let someone else who was way wiser do the talking instead. Just head off straight to Google Images and type in 'Martin Luther King Quotes'. There's so much there to ponder, and ultimately, if we're brave enough, to act on. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Simples Saving

That spreadsheet that I prepared when deciding how to fund my latest car has been subject to a few amendments and my estimate increased by £19 per annum.  I think that I can live with that!  It's because lease car costs were slightly higher than first estimated as I added in the fancy pants Autoglym Lifeshine treatment that's supposed to keep the car cleaner inside and out.  We'll see whether that passes the test after a very grubby 11 year old boy puts it through its paces.  Insurance has come in cheaper than expected. and as I already have breakdown cover for the motorhome this can be taken out of the reckoning altogether. Whoopee!

I reckon that I might be able to recoup my overspend in quite a novel way.  Many of you will be aware that if you take out insurance through Compare the Market  you can 'adopt' your very own meerkat, currently the extraordinarily cute Oleg and with his own cocooned baby.  We already have the set as I bought contents insurance from the site back along.  Along with the dreaded clothie Lou likes to hold a small cuddly toy to help him sleep.  These do just the trick.  Anyway we don't need more of the same and I've noticed that mint condition Oleg in his box with his adoption certificate normally sell on Ebay for between £25-30.  A quick calculation in the head and I've realised that, after commission, my legitimate trade in baby meerkats will just about haul my estimated savings back to its original estimate.  Simples!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Days Out In Devon: Pirating

May is the time of year when a Devon girl's thoughts are on skullduggery for 'tis the season of the Pirate Festival!  I thought that I'd written about the one in Brixham in 2013 when I visited with Lou, Scary Secretary and her nipper.  Looking back though it seems that the planned post never happened.  Of course, I could have rectified that when I returned last week but my companions were a more blokey crew.  We drank, ate and passed comment on the size of some of the lusty wench's cleavages.  No pictures of the event were taken for posterity.

Yesterday it was the turn of Plymouth to play host to the marauders of the sea. Crafty Kerry and I took the kids which gave the whole event a rather different flavour.  We were determined to come back with some photographic mementos of the day.  I think we've done all right this time.  Here's the good ship 'Phoenix' and we were allowed on board.

The crew seem to be quite entrepreneurial about how they fund their grog purchases.

Who put him in charge? I guarantee that it will lead to trouble.

Of course teenagers are too cool to dress up in all that pirate finery.

Unlike their embarrassing sister.....

..and Mum and friend making use of our very own thirsty sailor fund!

There were puppets....

And piratey popping chocolate.....

....And this lovely bunch, the Pirates of St Piran.  They got us laughing and dancing.  Crafty Kerry and I are oh so tempted to kit out in the finery and start our very own swashbuckling pirate brigade.

Jonty Depp was admiring of Beth's beautiful coat.

It goes without saying that there has to be weaponry around.

And although they insist that they're just friends do you think that Lou might have struck lucky with a certain little girl pirate?

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Clever Coins

Armed with enough information to allow me to start the first essay of my Master's course, I'm back from my whistle stop tour of Derby.   Fingers crossed that as I'm distance learning  I won't have to make that journey again anytime soon.  It's a very different experience of university life from my past forays into being a student.  No running around with a traffic cone on my head whilst drinking cheap cider this time!  On second thoughts I'm not so sure that ever really happened.

I spotted the picture above on the wall of the refectory at the Britannia Mill campus yesterday and was wowed by its cleverness. The graduation in shading is achieved by using pennies with different levels of tarnish. Maybe someone else out there with a big spare change pot might be inspired to produce something similar. I'll give this one a pass.  Surely the fact that I'm too busy studying could be my excuse but  something also tells me that this is way too clever for me to reproduce!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Flossing Not Flossie

How seasonal!  Cute little fellows like this one are scampering around the fields surrounding my Devon home as we speak.  Today though I'm far away from there and have woken in Derby where I've come for a university course to learn about the hard stuff that's been causing my head to go into a spin when I've been studying it by distance learning.  Eek!  The view from my hotel window incorporates a car park, an autocentre and a radio station.  Hmm!   Not so nice as those West Country vistas.  I'm told the nearby Peak District is lovely but I'm not going to discover that this time as I'm only here for a whistle stop tour.

For today's inspration I turned to Stumbleupon and found a post about strange health tips.  'Ha!' I thought. Í bet that includes my own favourite.' And lo and behold! it did.

Flossing your teeth goes way beyond getting nubby bits of decaying food out from between your gnashers and keeping your mouth smelling like a bed of roses.  They'd have to be pepperminty ones and I've never come across any that smell like that but those rose breeders are tenacious souls so maybe one day.... No, the action of rubbing that waxy string between your teeth gets rid of bacteria.  These can enter the blood stream through the gums and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.  This is why flossing always seems to make it into those lists of curious tips to keep you well. It goes way beyond preventing nasty niffs!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Megadarra: Irresistible Brown Gloop

Some dishes taste way more incredible than the simplicity of their ingredients would suggest.  Eggs on buttered toast comes to mind.  It's the dish that I craved when pregnant and those runny yolks were out of bounds.  And the Middle Eastern dish, megadarra, that is taken from the classic New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden  is one of those.  Who would have thought that just lentils, rice and onions could taste so utterly delicious.  I urge you to try this recipe that is so cheap it will bring out your inner Jack Monroe.  It's a handy one to have up your sleeve for vegetarian and vegan friends.  Just make sure that they keep their clothes on!

Cook 100g of green lentils in enough water to cover them for about 20  minutes until they are soft. Whilst you're doing that fry a chopped onion until it's golden with caramelised bits  in a really good glug of olive oil. Cast all low fat thoughts about dabbing the pan with a scant brushing of fat asunder.  The oil is a crucial flavour in the final dish. When the onions are done add them to the lentils together with 100g of long grain rice and cover with more water. Season really generously with salt and pepper.

While the rice mixture is cooking pop another hearty splodge of olive oil in the pan and cook two onions, that have been halved and sliced this time.  Once they are luscious and caramelised pour all the pan contents, including oil, onto the unappealing looking brown stuff in the other saucepan. Perk up the colour with a bit of parsley and wedges of lemon if you have them and serve at room temperature with yoghurt.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Two Little Boys

Yesterday was a bit of an ordeal.  To travel just thirty two miles for appointments totalling forty minutes at two different hospitals took nearly eight hours!  It involved five bus journeys and five walks that were each between ten and thirty minutes long.  All in an area where public transport links are pretty good.  I was shattered but it was all worth it.  For I no longer have to wear a leg brace or use a crutch and can drive again.  I've been given a further three weeks sick leave to continue my intensive exercise regime and build up my motoring mileage.

Those journeys are likely to be my final ones on a bus for a while.  I spent my time on the way to Newton Abbot playing with a little boy in a pushchair.  We started with peek a boo and then a game where we copied each other's action.  He touched his ear when I did and I wrinkled my nose in response to the same gesture from him.  I just wondered how often his mother played the same games with him.  I hope that spending the entire journey playing with her mobile phone instead of engaging with her nipper was not the norm.  And what a contrast to the experience of another littl'un on the way back from Torquay. The two women with him really engaged him.  They hyped him up for much of the journey with the promise of what to come which was...... a plethora of diggers on the bypass that was being built.  The little chap was beside himself with excitement.

This video that I discovered yesterday seems oh so pertinent for what I'm trying to say here.  Perhaps we're all guilty of staring at our electronic devices just a little too much these days.  I know I am.  That message to look away from the screen and engage really is an important one for us all.  There's so much of real life that we could be missing!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Wings Unclipped?

It's six weeks to the day that my world contracted after knee surgery because I'm not allowed to drive. That's limited where I go on a day to day basis to those that I can walk to on crutches or which are easily accessible by  public transport. In practice this means the local post office, Trago Mills where I treat myself to ice cream and flowers and places on the X38 bus route between Plymouth and Exeter. Trips out off the beaten track in friend's cars have been a lovely bonus.  Thanks guys!

I'd like to say that my inner 'Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm' has remained present at all times. After all, I am a pretty perky person.  Being geographically restricted has, at times, frustrated me.  I look moor-ward from my house and wish that I could just nip up in the car for a little yomp between tors.  Shopping for even essentials requires a bit of forward planning.  I've missed social events too just because they've been untenable to attend. Ho hum!  This state of affairs is good from a professional perspective.  It gives me such a valuable insight into what it's like to live a life that's restricted by disability.  So, I am grateful for personal experience that boosts my ability to be compassionate.

And for goodness sake, things could be a lot worse.  There is regular public transport, shops that I can walk to and beautiful countryside which has been accessible to me.  Walking circuits in these woods just down the road have been a welcome supplement to my physiotherapy exercise and static cycling. But today, I'm hoping that  horizons start to open up for me and that my surgeon will unleash me and give the go ahead to tentatively start driving again.  It will, of course, make a whole heap of difference.  Fingers crossed for me!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

I Challenge You.... a recycling duel!  The Guardian's Live Better challenge  this month, from which this infographic was taken, sets the task of reducing and recycling everything possible over a week. There's lots of ideas on the site. It's one that I think I'm going to start after green bin day on Thursday.  Now if you asked me how good that I was at managing waste at the moment I'd tell you that I do pretty well. Most of the time my black bin, which is collected fortnightly, is less than 50% full. Pretty good huh?  But there's room for improvement.   Remembering to recycle batteries or, even better, stocking up on rechargeable ones, buying veg from places where it is not packaged to the hilt in plastics and remembering my lovely string bags every time that I shop would be a start.  What to you need to do to get better at this?